News Corp./Content Providers vs. Google, Round 394

Recently, Rupert Murdoch has public mused that News Corp. might start blocking its content from Google’s search results. As many of you already know, Google provides search results that link to content from News Corp. (and many, many, other providers), along with a brief summary of said content. Google gets ad revenue tied to these search results, and it keeps all of the money. However, Google contends that it drives significant traffic directly to the sites (on the order of 1 billion page views per month, according to Marissa Mayer), and it allows the content owners to then try to monetize this traffic in any way they deem feasible. Plus, content owners are free to block Google’s search engines from linking to their sites.

Everybody gains, right? Not so fast. The search results frequently contain enough content that viewers do not feel the need to click on the original news link. And, this system puts the control of the viewer in the hands of Google, not the news source, by disaggregating all of the news.

So what is the solution, if you are a content provider? You could do what News Corp. is contemplating, which is to pull your content. Would it really be worth it to News Corp to decrease its traffic in order to spite Google? Probably not, which is why nobody of note has done it yet. One solution that has been rumored is that News Corp. would partner with Bing, a Google competitor, in an exclusive arrangement: Bing gets increased traffic to its search engine, and News Corp. receives some compensation from Bing for this exclusive traffic. However, and this is a big however, many viewers would likely just continue to use Google and then go to non-News Corp websites for their information, except in cases where News Corp. has exclusive content. The only way that this would work is if all of the major news sites signed an exclusive arrangement with Bing (or whomever else). Then they would have a critical mass of content that drives users to a different search engine.

If push came to shove, would Google consider providing a split of some of its revenue to these providers to prevent them from joining the other side? Doubtful. My view is that there is so much news content out there, both from “professional” and “amateur (blogs, etc.)” sources that it would be very difficult to have a concerted effort large enough to make a dent to Google. Stay tuned…